Awake and ready by four ante meridiem (a.m.). Drove to the forest rangers’ office to get a permit for the safari (hoping to get the morning one). Appa stood in a queue that was never-ending and not too queue-like. In the end, we got the afternoon, 2.45, slot. And thus the morning wait paid off (even though it tested our… my… patience quite a bit).
Got back, rested, breakfasted and bathed and left to the Kaladungi falls, which we had wanted to see the previous day. We finally entered the area and had ‘geera’ or cucumber with pepper and waded through the water. Even though it was small, it was amazingly beautiful and cheerful.
Got back, slept again, lunched and prepared for the safari. All eyes out, we watched out for the mighty tiger. We had a good guide (Shubham). We stood up on the jeep’s seat desperately hoping we’d spot the striped predator of the jungle.
v Loads of spotted deer hanging about in groups, running away at the sound of the engine,
v Saambar that was black in colour and generally stood far away, thus not requiring to run away at the sound of the engine,
v Black-faced Langoor that lept from tree to tree,
v A serpent-eater (eagle) that was perched between the greenery,
v A vulture on a leafless tree,
v A yellow-necked monter that looked like a mongoose but skipped from branch to branch,
v Peacocks (with their rejoicing bird-calls),
v And finally elephants.
(No tigers I’m afraid.)
We had a good sight of the elephants. In fact, our jeep spotted them first from afar and our driver took us really close to the herd. There were five elephants in all: three adult she-elephants, a young male and young female elephant. For those who do not know, elephants generally live in herds and the leader is usually a female. The male elephants do not necessarily stay with the herd (as was the case this time).
The other jeeps started following us. And there was a chaotic noise as people ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and then elephants turned to leave us (after all we were treading on their territory). This time our guide, with his great sense of perception overtook the herd and tried to catch a closer (than before) view of the elephants. We would have gotten really close if it hadn’t been for the other vehicles blocking our way thus hindering us from reaching faster.
Apparently three to four jeeps spotted the tiger! That was quite a blow. But, hey! What do you expect? This was a safari!
And thus we trundled back to our lair, a little dejected, of course. But on the trundling back, we were stopped by a humungous, confused, chaotic traffic jam (you couldn’t know where it started and where it ended). We waited for almost an hour and nothing seemed to be moving, so we decided to walk a little while and get the hotel car to come for us since the jeep was stuck in traffic. But as we got out and started walking, the jam cleared out. Finally we reached home (the hotel that is). I was absolutely exhausted and hence a nap ensued. Then dinner and back to sleep.
Alas! The tiger lay well hidden!